If not the worst of times, this spring and summer certainly haven’t been the best of times for New York’s Democratic Governor Hugh Carey. He has had the routine agony of wrestling with a recalcitrant Republican-controlled state senate. Then came New York City’s Mayor Abe Beame (PEOPLE, June 23), begging bowl in hand, hoping Carey could bail out his impoverished city. Finally, the Justice Department is examining allegations that Carey, while a seven-term Congressman from Brooklyn, intervened to obtain federal approval in an oil deal involving his brother Edward.
Little wonder then that the Governor flees every weekend he can to the bosom of his family, where the decibel count may be as high as in the capital (he has 12 adventurous children), but the sniping is considerably less. The widowed Carey heretofore has had to draw on all his patriarchal wisdom and energy to keep his far-flung offspring together. But not this summer: when Carey’s son, Christopher, 27, and a friend leased a 20-bedroom inn on peaceful Shelter Island, N.Y. near the tip of Long Island, they simply put most of the Carey brood to work running the place.
Michael Carey, 21, a prelaw student at Catholic University, is manager and jack-of-all-trades. His brother Donald, 20, a student at Fordham, is bartender-cum-recreation director, and sister Marianne, 19 (Boston College), has traded her schoolbooks for a waitress’s apron. Other Carey toilers at the inn, in descending order of seniority: Nancy, 17, and Helen, 16, chambermaids; Bryan, 15, dishwasher; Paul, 12, busboy (“I guess you could call me that,” he agrees dubiously. “A few weeks ago I put a pile of plates on a tray. Now I keep away from trays.”); and Kevin, 11, bellhop. Nine-year-old Thomas and the governor’s 6-year-old grandson, Thomas Blum Carey, are interested observers.
“Everybody is ‘in’ on the inn,” observes Gov. Carey. “The money is secondary. The attitude the children have toward people and toward themselves is worth whatever they might lose financially.” Actually, the inn somehow has been bumping along in the black. “We were making a nice profit,” says Christopher, an assistant banquet manager at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, “but with so many of the family eating here now, there is no telling how we’re going to do.”
The 40-year-old Ram’s Head Inn, set on four acres of rolling hills, has long prided itself on a kind of summer-camp ambience. Now, with the Carey clan and sometimes their friends in residence, the place is awash with well-scrubbed teenagers. Bedtimes are forgotten or ignored, and the rule of barefoot informality prevails. One weekend the governor found his room rented out, so he simply moved in with some of his kids. In the meantime a family friend with wife and five children who had checked into the governor’s room were rudely awakened by a state policeman. Thinking the governor was there, the trooper had walked in and flicked on the light switch.
Occasionally the Carey kids will wait on a full house of guests until late in the evening, then form a skylarking all-night cleanup detail. The morning after finds Bryan, his wiry red hair shooting off in a dozen directions, yawning through the breakfast dishes. Donald stumbles through brandishing a tennis racket. “My job?” he mutters. “Waking up, this morning.” But though the hours are long and irregular, no Carey is heard to complain. “It doesn’t seem like a job,” explains Marianne, “when you’re working around your brothers and sisters.”
The Carey family has summered at Shelter Island for 23 years, and the governor is building a home there. Last July 3, as he has done every year on the anniversary of the auto accident that took the lives of his sons Peter and Hugh Jr. (18 and 17 at the time), he went with his children to the tranquil Our Lady of the Isle Cemetery. There the two boys are buried beside their mother, Helen, who died of cancer in 1974. Afterward, under a scarlet evening sky, the family sat down to a barbecue on the inn’s broad lawn overlooking the bay.
Frequently, on visits to the island, Carey indulges his passion for gubernatorial cooking. One of his specialties is sculptured pancakes. (“If anyone thinks this pancake doesn’t look like Julius Caesar,” he announces to his expectant offspring, “then don’t eat it.”) Although the governor does enjoy certain perquisites of authority—even among his children—he is not one to push rank. One evening recently he wandered into the inn to discover a couple in need of a bellhop. “I’m available,” announced the governor affably, and trundled up the stairs with their luggage. He learned later that the guests were from Ohio. “If I’d only known, I wouldn’t have been so helpful,” he grinned. “Next time, let Gov. Rhodes carry their bags.”